F1: Lewis Hamilton extends Mercedes contract
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Lewis Hamilton put pen to paper on a one-year contract earlier this month to book his place on the grid for the 2021 season but there remains some doubt on what Mercedes will do the following year. Team principal Toto Wolff has already named both George Russell and Esteban Ocon as drivers that Mercedes will look at closely throughout the upcoming season with both drivers set to be free agents at the end of the year.
“Esteban is in the second year of a two-year contract with Renault and Alpine F1, and George is with Williams this year,” Wolff told Speedweek.
“So we have some options for 2022, but until then our full support goes to Valtteri and Lewis. We will evaluate in the middle of the year whether there will be a change in 2022.”
Russell is the strong favourite to take a seat at Mercedes having already stepped in to last year’s W11 at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
But Ocon was initially Mercedes’ preferred choice to make the step up from their junior driver’s programme.
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He’s since joined Renault, who have since been rebranded as Alpine, but Mercedes have still been managing Ocon from afar.
However, Mercedes may well have another option outside of their pool of drivers to consider should Hamilton decide to walk away in 2022.
Alex Albon lost his Red Bull seat for the upcoming season after disappointing year racing alongside Max Verstappen.
Sergio Perez was announced as his replacement, leaving Albon without a seat for the 2021 campaign.
The Thai driver has admitted that he’s determined to win his Red Bull seat back and he would also be interested in returning to AlphaTauri.
But Albon has suggested he has no official ties to the Red Bull garage, opening the door for other teams to snap him up.
“My main goal is to be in a Formula 1 car,” he said.
Albon may not have been able to reach the same heights as Verstappen in his first full season at Red Bull last year, but he’s still seen as one of the future stars of the sport.
Matching Verstappen’s performances at Red Bull was always going to be a tall order for any driver coming in with the Dutchman well accustomed to everything about the team and the car.
Expectations were high but Albon showed glimpses that he was growing into his role in the backend of last season.
He earned an impressive second podium of the season at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix but it was at the final race of the season where Albon admitted that something finally “clicked” on his side of the garage.
His impressive drive was lauded as part of the reason Mercedes were unable to to try an alternate strategy with Verstappen going on to win the race.
And now being axed by Red Bull for the 2021 season could give Albon that added impetus to prove them wrong in 2022.
Joining Mercedes would give him the perfect platform to prove himself and the Silver Arrows would also benefit.
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